The Future of Human Rights Practicum


The traditional human rights paradigm is ill-equipped to deal with the simultaneity, speed, and depth of existential challenges to human rights, like climate change, technological disruption, geopolitical instability, polarization and deepening social inequalities. Against the despair of critics who announce that these challenges spell the “endtimes” of human rights and the defensiveness of traditional advocates who double down on conventional tactics, this course proposes new ideas and strategies for the next generation of human rights lawyers.

This course will examine the ongoing debates about the future of the field and delve into promising innovations that address the aforementioned challenges. Drawing on the instructor’s research and advocacy experience around the world, we will analyze case studies on various topics and regions, including: human rights-based litigation for climate action before national and international courts; new efforts to regulate global digital corporations and hold them accountable for human rights violations taking place in their platforms; innovative Indigenous and socioeconomic rights advocacy in the Global South; creative responses to anti-rights populist authoritarian narratives in Europe and the United States; and the emerging trend towards the recognition of non-human beings as rights holders.

The course highlights, among other themes, the need for human rights actors to learn from other disciplines, such as journalism, and how they have adapted to and seized new opportunities in an increasingly complex world. Furthermore, course readings and discussions will reflect the need to incorporate insights from other fields that have traditionally received scant attention in human rights, including: ecology, social psychology, systems thinking, and innovation studies.


An additional three-credit clinical option will be available for up to eight students in the seminar to develop cutting-edge professional skills and apply them to advocacy and litigation projects with human rights organizations around the world. Ongoing projects include: rights-based climate litigation in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and South and Southeast Asia; research and advocacy with leading organizations advocating within the United Nations to promote international human rights as a means to counter the erosion of democracies around the world; advocacy and litigation against corporate actors driving the climate and biodiversity crises; and environmental justice and Indigenous rights advocacy and litigation in the Amazon and Caribbean regions. New projects on other topics of the seminar will emerge in response to requests from partner organizations and new opportunities for impact. In line with the approach of the seminar, students in the practicum will be involved in a range of activities that will prepare them to practice international human rights in a rapidly changing context, from collaborative fieldwork with impacted communities to strategic litigation to new forms of data gathering and communications enabled by digital technologies.

César Rodríguez-Garavito
CHRGJ Chair and Faculty Director
Professor of Clinical Law

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